Irreverent Mama

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Normally I am a quiet, understated, and overall kindly person. Four or five days a month? A transformation occurs. That PMS thing I so loved to mock when I was a young and symptom-free woman? It's hit, with a vengeance, these last few years. Coming as it has so late in the game, I am mature enough that I don't take it out on the people around me. I just get quieter, following my gran's sage advice, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Quiet, but not silent. I mutter. Quietly. When I'm alone. Mutter, mutter, mutter.

It's Sunday of a weekend when the stepkids have been here, bringing the household total of teens to six(ish). Join with me, if you will, on a pre-menstrual, muttered, tour of my home.

Laundry room:
What moron left a kleenex in their pocket?
My, GOD, look at these underwear. That girl's ass is IMMENSE.
Three odd socks. Again. Bah.

Why am I the ONLY person who ever notices the Britta needs to be refilled? Ever?
Ants? Again?
Another damned puddle by the fridge! God, I wish we could afford a new one.
Who has been using their socks to wipe up the fridge puddle?
And if they want to do that, can't they put the sock in the laundry?
And why only one sock?
Which ridiculous child is walking around wearing one sock? And when I find you, you little fucker...

Living Room:
Why is wrong with the couch cushions?
Why are they askew like that?
Ah. Because we are storing dirty socks under there. Of course!
What is that stench?
Ah. Why did I ever agree to a hamster?
'It's okay, mummy. I'll keep it clean, I promise.' HA.

Dining Room:
For the love of Pete. Is the six feet to the kitchen sink too far to take the dirty plates?
Why is there a sock in this glass? Why?
Who puts a sock in a glass half-full of water? Guess I could be grateful it's not milk...

Front Hall:
Is is truly that difficult to place shoes on the rack rather than kick them off in a heap? It couldn't be that hard, since someone's managed to get a sock on one shelf. Two socks. No, three.
When do teenagers' feet stop growing?
Any why do they stink so fucking much?
Why are there socks on the shoe rack?

What the fuck is this, a breeding program for towels?!?
Must be, and here's how: Place damp towels on bathroom floor, at least four to a heap, making sure to leave the light on and fan off for maximum growth, and a couple of dirty (and odd) socks as fertilizer.
Who didn't pull the shower curtain to? Not to worry, though - all those towels and socks are sucking up the excess, no problem.
Do they not realize what the strainer is for? So why is it on the side of the tub and I'm pulling foot-long hanks of slimy hair from the drain?

Can they not, even once, leave the fucking seat DOWN?

And put the new roll ON the spindle, not perched precariously on the side of the sink, where it will almost certainly fall into the toi -- damn! Where it now floats alongside someone's purple toothbrush. Lovely. You know what? I think I'll just put the toothbrush back in the cup and say nothing. Serve 'em right.

I'm speechless. Nothing to be done but close the door.
And turn off the damned lights!

My room:
WHERE is the garbage can?
Who walked off with the garbage can from MY bedroom?
And WHY?

Why is there a dirty sock on my pillow? Whose is it?

Children. Who'd want to have children? Biology's a bitch. That damned biological imperative, I tell you...


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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A friend gives me an article by Robert Fisk. I am urged to read it. Fisk is a 'great mind', says my friend. He 'doesn't tolerate fools gladly'. I've heard of Fisk, and even of the verb ('fisking') spawned by his rants, but never read him. (I know, I know. Shockingly insular North American am I. Given what I read of Mr. Fisk when I did investigate, I'll be back for more.)

But this particular article? I've heard this sort of thing before, and find it no more than an annoyance. Let me be clear. I'm well-read. I have decent grammar, a good vocabulary, I love the language and deplore sloppiness. I have a degree in English. Sometimes, sometimes I even manage to write something that sings, just a little. But this word snobbery, this 'zero tolerance' approach to word sins, galls me.

((But, Mr. Fisk: "Authoress"? Did anyone after George Eliot actually use that word? With a straight face?) Yes, this quibbling proves that I, too, have my fisk moments. It also proves that those who rant about words set themselves up for this kind of quibbling. However, I know that the quibbling is, at best, a clever-ish form of personal entertainment; at worst, nothing more than basest snobbery.)

Picture this:

You’re at a dinner party. The food is excellent, the furnishing comfortable, the people varied and interesting, but as the evening progresses, you find yourself feeling more and more uncomfortable. You’re not sure why, but people are being a bit stiff with you. Normally an easy conversationalist, your overtures stumble, you can’t seem to generate any momentum. You are never quite able to relax and enjoy yourself. By the end of the evening, you leave with relief, not certain why the occasion was so awkward.

Subsequent to the dinner, a friend who was also at the event explains. Your clothing was wrong - style, colour, vintage. Your tie too wide (or too narrow). Your laugh too loud (too high, too soft). Your hair an embarrassment. Your jokes out of fashion. You held your cutlery wrong, your taste in music was wrong, and the books you like to read? Well, everyone knows that type of book is out of fashion.

Your reaction? Well, can’t speak to yours, but mine is to dismiss the critics. (And perhaps to wonder how I ever got myself invited to such a gathering...) They have established an entirely arbitrary set of rules by which they judge whether someone is ‘in’ our ‘out’, whether a person is sufficiently ‘in the know’ to be part of the group. I do not judge myself by the style of my shirt or the music I listen to, nor will I allow myself to be constrained in such an ill-fitting social box. In short, they need not bother to exclude me; I want no part of their arbitrary judgmentalism. They can do the anatomically impossible.

Now, people do that sort of thing all the time, of course. Teenagers develop their own dialect, listen to certain music, wear certain clothes. Twenty-somethings watch certain television shows, dress a certain (different) way, laugh at the same type of jokes as other twenty-somethings.

Each age-group does it; each sub-group does it, down to the two women having coffee together two or three times a week. Each group has those things which identify them; it has those things which they delight to mock. Every time it’s done, its declared intent may be something noble - they're ‘expressing themselves’, ‘conversing intelligently’, ‘exploring ideas with like-minded people’ - but in fact the motivation at root is sheer adolescent clique-ishness. They desire nothing more than to identify and exclude outsiders. If you can mock them at the same time, even better!

The language snobbery of Fisk is nothing other than this. Even though I agree with him at a number of points, his argument overall simply wearies and annoys me. He knows which words and phrases are worthy, and which are to be vilified. He claims a standard by which he slots the words into their appointed category, but in fact, it’s totally arbitrary, merely a matter of his personal taste. Some words and phrases are acceptable, others aren’t, and if you don’t know which is which, you are a boor.

Pfft to Mr. Fisk.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007


Everyone loves to hate Wal-Mart. Well, everyone of my education level and social class. Everyone in my neighbourhood. All my friends. We all hate Wal-Mart. We mock the low-brow, blue-collar types who shop there. No social conscience among Wal-Mart shoppers! We hate its bullying ways, its negative effect on bookstores. There's something about its corporate practices that invites censure, but I confess I've never really gotten the gist of that. I haven't gotten the gist because I tend to ease out of these conversations. Because, you see...

I have a secret. I shop at Wal-Mart. Yes, I do.

Every time I sneak down to the south end of the city, I am guiltily aware that I am supporting the commercial rape of Canada. (Or something.) I breathe a sigh of relief once I'm through the doors, because I am fully confident I will not meet any of my friends in here! (I never have. But if I did, our shared guilty secret would ensure discretion.)

I sneak the bags back home under cover of darkness, or pretend that it's only environmental delicacy that has me bringing cloth bags...

Thing is, my partner and I, between the two of us, have some eight children. Eight, on one and a half incomes. (One and a half because he send just about half of his after-tax income to his ex. to support his portion of all those masses of children.)

I do shop at Walmart because we like little luxuries like... oh, affordable shoes for that many feet. Or, shoes AND food AND mortgage - all in the same month!

We're not poor. We feed, house, and clothe our children, and they also get luxuries like drama classes and flute lessons. But, unlike my neighbours, we know these are luxuries - and without things like inexpensive shoes, we couldn't have them.

So, yeah, I shop at Wal-Mart sometimes. I'm quiet, I'm discreet, and I don't indulge too often, but.. yes. I do. And the thing I really, really can't tell my friends?

I'm kind of grateful to Wal-Mart for the shoes.

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